Where are the pro-choice pregnancy homes?

This Feministing thread has evolved into a really interesting discussion about how to best assist pregnant teenagers, and how the pro-choice movement is dealing with the issue.

The conversation started because of this article, which is about three pregnant teenagers who broke out of the home for pregnant girls that they were being kept in. My first reaction was a hearty “hell yeah.” Girls shouldn’t be sent away because they’re pregnant, and they certainly shouldn’t be isolated from their families and their friends while they go through pregnancy and childbirth. These homes often coerce girls into putting their children up for adoption, and inundate them with conservative Christian ideology. In a lot of ways, they’re bad news.

But as one commenter points out — the woman who cast a 30 Days episode about homes like these — there are lots of girls who could use this kind of support system. Ideally, every pregnant teenager would have a healthy home life, and parents or relatives who were willing to support her. But that isn’t the case. The commenter writes:

Actually, Planned Parenthood has pamphlets on adoption. This is not the same thing as adoption counseling. This is not a real resource. It is a PAMPHLET. I would love to hear of a branch of PP that has adoption services but in 4 months of research (and calling PP repeatedly) that wasn’t anything I found to be true. At best, PP would give them a list of phone numbers to other organizations. Now, keep in mind these are 16 year old girls. The don’t have the emotional maturity for the situation they are in. They usually don’t have the concentration or transportation to get around and check out their adoption options.

The pregnancy crisis centers (who often send these girls to these homes when they come in pregnant and seeing assistance) know that it’s a game of who gets there first. Usually the first place they go will win out. Adult women weigh their options and make choices. But teenage girls aren’t so good at that.

You should talk to the girls and see how they feel about the homes. New Hope is an anomaly – most of the homes I talked to were free, or paid for by the state. Most of the girls were glad to have somewhere to go and were happy to be around other girls going through the same experience.

I am pro-choice, have had an abortion, so I have put my money where my mouth is, and I had a hard time with this subject. I don’t believe in 90% of the philosophy or theology that the people who run these homes do, but I had to be the first to admit – they are nice people with good intentions who usually have mad skills when it comes to dealing with difficult teenage girls. Yes, they like Jesus, yes they believe that it’s bettter if the girls weren’t having sex in the first place. But again, if you aren’t offering the girls a pro-choice option, what choice do they have? And yes, self-esteem training is part of the curriculum. It just has a lot more Jesus than any of us would most likely be comfortable with.

Most of the girls want to stay after the baby is born, and if there is anything criminal going on here, it’s that most of the girls can only stay as long as the baby can fit in a bassinet in her room. Then – what happens to her is up to her.

Pro-choice is asleep at the wheel. Yes, we all know that the movement is pro- contraception and abortion. But when women are really in need, and not prepared to go that route, they need to have more to offer than pamphlets and lists of phone numbers to other social services agencies.

At the risk of getting absolutely killed in the comments, I have to say that I agree with her.

Naturally, there are caveats. I think she underestimates teenage girls. They do weigh their options and choices. But, being young and having only been exposed to limited viewpoints — especially if they’re coming from religious, conservative and/or pro-life families and communities — they may not even have an accurate idea as to what their options are. Or, if they’re like many young people in this country, they’ve been assaulted by anti-choice rhetoric since puberty. The things they’re told by flat-out liars at anti-choice Crisis Pregnancy Centers don’t seem particularly outrageous when they’ve never been told anything else.

Planned Parenthood is an incredible organization, but they aren’t an adoption agency. I wish they were able to offer comprehensive childbirth, childcare, and adoption services, but their budget is stretched paper-thin as it is. Being that they’re the only national organization that offers the kind of low-cost contraception, sexual health, education, and abortion services that they do, given that there are lots of other groups that run adoption agencies and homes for pregnant girls, and given that right-wing attacks have terrified many private abortion providers out of the field, it’s no wonder that Planned Parenthood puts their focus where they do.

But the pro-choice movement as a whole has to do more.

The fact is that many girls are being sent to these pregnancy homes against their will. Many of them are being religiously and ideologically indoctrinated. Many of them find that as soon as they’re no longer useful (i.e., as soon as they’ve had the baby and ideally given it up for adoption into a nice white Christian family) they’re back on their own.

On the other hand, the fact is that there are pregnant girls who are troubled, or have been kicked out of by their parents, or are homeless, or can’t afford the medical expenses that come with pregnancy, or want more support. Girls like this exist in spades, and they deserve non-judgmental, pro-choice support in continuing their pregnancies.

We can do better.

I would love to see a pro-choice option available to teenage girls who choose to continue their pregnancies — with the requirement, of course, that entering into it would be voluntary, and not a situation in which girls are “sent away.”


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46 comments for “Where are the pro-choice pregnancy homes?

  1. Echolalia
    January 23, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    Word, Jill.

    I’m de-lurking myself to state that this is an issue that I have been thinking a lot about lately, having had a child 6 months ago. I have the “ideal” situation – loving husband, enthusiasticly supportive family, comfortable economic situation, access to great health care – and I still find it to be a challenge. I’d love to get involved with a pro-choice organization that provides a non-judgemental, bullshit-free place where women who are facing a tough time but are considering continue their pregnancy can fully explore their options and get access to a wide range of services.

  2. ako
    January 23, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    I also think it’s a great idea. It addresses choice from both sides. If it’s really a choice, that means women who want to go through with pregnancy and have a baby should get as much of a choice and as much of a chance as it’s possible to provide as well.

  3. Echolalia
    January 23, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    If such a place does not yet exist, how would you go about starting one up? I know *zero* about this sort of thing. However, I’ve been discussing this with friends for some time now and we all seem to agree that there is a definite need. If I could find some like-minded folks I’d love to get involved in getting one going.

  4. January 23, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    Thanks, Jill, for addressing an issue I’ve been wondering at for a while now.

    Where I am, in India, the reproductive rights issue is focussed on female infanticide, and state regulation of Medical Termination of Pregnancy is seen as pro-women, rather than otherwise. In that context, it’s nice to read about ideas that make ‘choice’ real – enable women to take control of their bodies, and support them in whatever decision they make. This makes the abortion debate relevant to people like me, something I can relate to my own context.

  5. PhoenixRising
    January 23, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    We’ve been discussing this at our house. We got an offhand referral (for foster/adopt placement) of a 12 year old with a 2 week old baby. She needs a highly skilled family to provide her with specialized support over the coming 10 years, and we’re not ready to make that commitment, but it sparked a conversation.

    The definition of choice really ought to include practical support for teens who choose to bear children who they do not plan to raise, i.e. a substitute family and adoption referral if that is their choice.

    I have lots of contacts–okay, not lots, but lots for a radical feminist dyke mama–with the CPC people. A group of families who met through their local CPC helped us to adopt, in fact. And their organizations are slicker than snot, folks. They cover everything from the ultrasound to the first package of diapers, they will find a family to adopt your baby, they will put you in an apartment to raise your baby. The price tag is submitting to their version of Jeebus.

    I would love to start a radical feminist prochoice network of resources for pregnant teens. However, the time constraints on my life prohibit this. PP is a great organization that is not an adoption agency or adoption referral resource.

    So yeah, Jill, at the risk of social disapproval, I’m in there with you. CPCs are doing something good that pro-choice people aren’t doing.

  6. January 23, 2007 at 11:17 pm

    I don’t see any reason why you should be killed in comments. The idea that people in the pro-choice movement should start pro-choice pregnancy centers is a no-brainer. I don’t know why it never occurred to me. Do any already exist? It’s an immediate action that would help women/girls that could really make a significant difference while we’re fighting the pro-choice fight in legislatures and courts. And it would go a long way in demonstrating the fact that the pro-choice movement is just that — pro-choice, whatever choice it is that a woman/girl wants to make. And there’s no reason that any of this should be interpreted as a slam on Planned Parenthood. They can obviously only do so much.

  7. January 23, 2007 at 11:26 pm

    I don’t see any reason why you should be killed in comments.

    I figured that most pro-choice people would agree with the concept. The problem is that these homes have a very long history of holding girls against their will, and of being used to ship off the shameful pregnant teenager. There are obviously legitimate feminist concerns here, many of which were raised in the Feministing thread. I would hope that a pro-choice organization could avoid the traditional pitfalls of pregnancy homes, but as fas as I know it has yet to be seen.

  8. twf
    January 23, 2007 at 11:29 pm

    This idea occurred to me the first time I saw that homicide was the number one cause of death of pregnant women.

  9. Lily
    January 23, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    I agree that much of the problem is due to Planned Parenthood’s paper-thin budget. But another part of the problem is that, thanks to Republican tinkering with the NIH, there aren’t a lot of studies done on birth mother’s (mental) health. What most people don’t realize is that the extant information consistently demonstrates that the effects on the birth mother’s mental health are negative. OB/GYN isn’t my field, but because the evidence against adoption is so clear, I’d be worried about a malpractice suit from a pissed off birth mom.*

    *Malpractice is necessary but not sufficient for people to file malpractice suits. The field is still pretty new, but the new evidence suggests that if doctors sincerely apologize and offer a reasonable monetary compensation for any harm done, people decide not to sue — even if they could get a lot more. Conversely, people with factually weak cases sue because the doctor’s demeanor intensified their anger.

  10. January 23, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    I didn’t realize that there still were pregnancy homes. I read Wake Up Little Suzie for a history class last year. The book describes the different experiences of white and black girls attending pregnancy homes in pre-Roe America. It’s worth checking out for anyone interested in the topic.

  11. Kat
    January 23, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    Speaking as someone who turned to my family when I had an unintended pregnancy and was turned away I definitely support the idea of a range of real options for women who find themselves in similar circumstances.

    In my case, I had an abortion not because it was necessarily the best choice for me but because it was that or return home to a dysfunctional family that equated my pregnancy with dirty-whoreness. The thought of being tied back to that house just as I had started climbing my way out was horrific enough for me to make that call to Planned Parenthood. Wanting the baby and/or adoption were not even considerations because there were no real programs for that available to me. Sadly, a lot of girls are from homes like mine. Its not always a safe place to land.

  12. January 24, 2007 at 12:05 am

    Some of the comments in that Feministing thread irritated me. I don’t mean to be an ass and single anybody out, because I do understand where they’re coming from, but saying things like: “Well, if these girls were raised in a loving, feminist environment and they had more self-esteem, this kind of thing would be preventable” or “Sending girls away and isolating them is stupid, it’s the guys committing statutory rape who should be sent away” do absolutely nothing to help a teenage girl who is in shitty circumstances and is pregnant right now. I think the 30 Days casting woman was being misinterpreted as endorsing crisis pregnancy homes, when she was just describing the more complicated reality that girls find themselves in and the fact that often these places are the only ones meeting their needs (even if it’s in a way that we all disagree with, i.e. mandating bible study and whatnot).

  13. Mnemosyne
    January 24, 2007 at 1:02 am

    I think the best model for a pro-choice pregnancy home would be a women’s shelter — as in, “Don’t feel safe at home? Can’t afford both rent and pre-natal care? Come stay with us.” Again, offering it as an option, both for girls/women who want to keep their babies AND for those who want to put them up for adoption.

    I’m not sure how offering more options to pregnant women and girls can be seen as “problematic,” but I didn’t read the Feministing thread.

  14. ellenbrenna
    January 24, 2007 at 1:18 am

    I think because we are philosophically inclined to believe that women can and should make their own decisions and take care of themselves wherever possible pro-choice advocates have been far slower to adopt what has been a very paternalistic model in the past to resolve the problem.

    We have been more focused on broad structural issues instead of individual outreach.There needs to be a reorientation if this is going to happen. Coordination with NAPW and PP might be a good place to start but I would imagine fundraising would be tricky since feminism is often portrayed as a philosophy of liberation instead of rights and teen aged pregnancy is seen as an embodiment of the abuse of that liberation.

  15. January 24, 2007 at 1:38 am

    Well, I hate to do it, but let’s take a page from Daily Kos’ book. PP is a great organization that has an important function. But it can’t act independently to create a movement, and its half-assed attempt (half-assed due to circumstance, but still, half-assed) what ends up sounding hollow from the pro-choice movement. Pro-choice does mean “pro-abortion,” functionally, even if most of its adherents work for more causes than access to abortion. Pro-choice can work as a Democratic slogan, not just an abortion access one, and we – those of us who aren’t abortion practitioners and who do any of the other things that are necessary to help women’s choices broaden – need to work to fit abortion into the profile of freedoms that are necessary to American life.

    I do think that with the new court nominations, there’s been more actual conversation about abortion, and this is a great opportunity to make connections between progressive causes that make “choice” more feasible. It’s like there’s been a half-assed truce declared on the abortion issue for the past decade or so, and it’s time to realize that Roe isn’t safe and that we can’t separate abortion from any of theo ther issues that affect peoples’ lives.

  16. January 24, 2007 at 8:03 am

    I don’t see why Planned Parenthood shouldn’t be able to cultivate better relations with local adoption agencies and homes. If they don’t have the resources to offer it themselves, then they should be able to at least refer someone on. Or have an adoption agency representative seconded to the office.

  17. Frumious B
    January 24, 2007 at 9:42 am

    What most people don’t realize is that the extant information consistently demonstrates that the effects on the birth mother’s mental health are negative.

    Will you provide us with some links to this information? Do the investigators try to correct for the negative effect on the mother’s mental health that the pregnancy may have had in the first place?

  18. Ledasmom
    January 24, 2007 at 10:31 am

    Coordination with NAPW and PP might be a good place to start but I would imagine fundraising would be tricky since feminism is often portrayed as a philosophy of liberation instead of rights and teen aged pregnancy is seen as an embodiment of the abuse of that liberation

    So you do an end-run around that by promoting all these things that are wonderful for the pregnant woman – prenatal care, proper nutrition, housing, eventually baby supplies – as wonderful for the baby, which, of course, they are. Who could possibly be against doing nice stuff for cute babies? Start with the perfectly good slogan “Every child a wanted child” and build on it: “Every child a wanted child; every child safe, warm and fed” – that’s not catchy, but you get the idea.
    Whereas the ideal and eventual goal could be to set up independent maternity homes, why not start with a great big pro-choice blogosphere fundraiser/clothing-diaper-etc. drive, firmly and loudly associating abortion rights with concern for pregnant women no matter what choice they happen to make? Start with the stuff that can be done without actual physical buildings, then move forward once you’ve got people working together. The anti-choicers don’t think we care about pregnant women? Make ’em eat those words as thoroughly as possible.

  19. nerd chik
    January 24, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Personally, I think we need to get behind existing programs like this one http://www.a2stone.org/stone.home/home rather than label it a “failing school” (a.k.a test scores are low) for trying to meet needs of the community. It provides daycare, medical care, and mental health services.

  20. January 24, 2007 at 10:52 am

    New Beginnings is a local maternity home in our area. While they are mainly a Catholic organization, they don’t talk about abortion – they are open to any woman age 14-28 who is pregnant and wants to carry to term or who has a baby under 3 mo. old. We do a lot of cross-referring with them at our agency.

    I think that if we, as a pro-choice movement, can’t (or currently won’t) get our act together to start a pro-choice CPC or home (which would be awesome) I think we should be well versed in the resources in our community. Where do you apply for WIC? What’s your local DV hotline? What CPCs are less evangelizing and more focused on meeting women’s basic needs? How can we disseminate this information effectively?

    Maybe we should all contact our local PP and find out what the extent of their off site referrals are. I know our local branch has a (pretty comprehensive) resource brochure – but there’s probably a huge difference to a young woman of being handed a brochure OR being handed a brochure, a phone, and having a counselor or volunteer sit down with you and help you make the calls and figure out transportation, etc.

  21. Dianne
    January 24, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Frumious B: The literature, though relatively scanty, is remarkably uniform in its findings. Adoption is bad for the relinquishing mother. Some studies:

    A review of the literature demonstrating that relinquishing mothers suffer a long term depression unique to relinquishing mothers, that is, not experienced by women who have an abortion or women who choose to continue an unwanted pregnancy and raise the child.

    A study from Australia demonstrating that the grief birth mothers experience on giving up their children is long lasting and results in lifelong problems.

    Not that things go so well when women have the baby and don’t give it up either.

    I’ll add some links on the experiences of women who have abortions for comparison below. I want to get this one off before it is so link filled that the spam filter kills it.

  22. t. comfyshoes
    January 24, 2007 at 11:06 am

    There is an organization in my city called Terra that is pro-choice/secular and supports not only teen moms but teen dads. They do fantastic work.

  23. Dianne
    January 24, 2007 at 11:13 am

    I agree with Jill that the pro-choice movement ought to do more to help women who want to continue unplanned pregnancies whether the child is then placed for adoption or raised by its mother. But these women ought to know what they are getting into. They ought to be told that they are almost certain to experience long lasting, severe depression if they give the child up. They ought to know the risks to the child and to themselves if they raise the child. They need the full picture, not a pretty lie about how easy adoption is going to be.

  24. Broce
    January 24, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    While I think it is important for a girl or woman facing an unexpected pregnancy to have *real* options, including support if she wants to adopt out or keep the resulting baby, I suspect a number of us who are pro choice (particularly those of us with a few more miles on us) tend to believe that the *best* choice a 15 year old can make is to terminate the pregnancy. While we would certainly never bar her from other options….we do have an opinion than tends to inform our actions, I think.

  25. ellenbrenna
    January 24, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    I think Amanda’s recent post on the affirmation of overall reproductive rights instead of an emphasis on pro-choice politics is an important one.

    In the context of an overall reproductive rights movement there is no contradiction in a pro-choice pregnancy center. If the right wing did not have us on the defensive about abortion for the past couple of decades this may have happened anyway but it arguably should happen now.

  26. Mnemosyne
    January 24, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    A review of the literature demonstrating that relinquishing mothers suffer a long term depression unique to relinquishing mothers, that is, not experienced by women who have an abortion or women who choose to continue an unwanted pregnancy and raise the child.

    Are there any studies comparing/contrasting the experiences of closed vs. open adoptions? My instinct would be that an open adoption would be less traumatic for the birth mother, but I’d be curious to see if that is in fact the case.

  27. bmc90
    January 24, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    This is a vast undertaking. A 14 year old who has little chance of finishing high school is going to need 18 years worth of support to properly raise a kid. What if she keeps having them? How far could private charity really extend in these circumstances? Remember welfare reform? Even the federal government won’t bankroll this kind of thing. There’s helping someone who made a mistake, and then there is enabling irresponsibility, and I don’t really want to be the judge of where to draw the line. However, programs like these would not be sustainable if they became a way that some girls could just become professional mom’s on someone else’s nickel, and I don’t know how to fix that without coercion (i.e. tubal ligations, getting periodic injections of birth control agents, giving future children up for adoption), and I’m not really about coercion. Bottom line – pro-choice has to be pro-responsible choice, and I don’t know how to build in that component.

  28. January 24, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    I think that there is definitely a need for pro-choice homes, because the flavor of them would be entirely different from the sorts of maternity homes you have now.

    The pro-choice home would be a place where a woman would spend the first week or so in specialized counseling, where she is asked to take a critical look at her own life, and how a baby might fit into it. If she determines that a baby cannot fit into this situation, then she realizes that she cannot make a baby work for her financially, emotionally, or physically, she is further counselled on how she would like to proceed. She is given accurate information about adoption – the pros and the cons, including the possibility that she may be contacted in 18 years by her child, but adoption is not dismissed as it is a tremendous gift to another family. She is given the pros and cons and allowed to make the decision for herself, and of course she is given accurate information about abortion.

    The important difference is that her pregnancy not be viewed as a punishment, but as a temporary state that she should be able to avoid in the future with good birth control. She is not treated as mentally deficient, neurotic, or unreliable, she is treated as a human being who has difficult decisions to make and needs all the information and support she can get, and sometimes that requires a stable environment where she can be allowed to think for herself.

    Another important element to the pro-choice home is that no matter the outcome, the woman’s stay isn’t incumbent on her pregnancy. No matter what course she takes, she is allowed to stay on after the pregnancy in order to take additional counseling, training, and education.

    Shit, if I had the money, I’d fund one of these right now.

  29. kate
    January 24, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    Coordination with NAPW and PP might be a good place to start but I would imagine fundraising would be tricky since feminism is often portrayed as a philosophy of liberation instead of rights and teen aged pregnancy is seen as an embodiment of the abuse of that liberation.

    I absolutely agree and have thought about this alot as I had three children in a shitty marriage that I stuck to out of fear and lack of preparation for independence and loathing to go home to a seriously dysfunctional homelife. The dilemma Kat explains I can relate to.

    A 14 year old who has little chance of finishing high school is going to need 18 years worth of support to properly raise a kid. What if she keeps having them? How far could private charity really extend in these circumstances? Remember welfare reform? Even the federal government won’t bankroll this kind of thing.

    A 14 year old that adamantly will not choose abortion has only two other choices: carry the child to term and give up for adoption or carry the child to term and attempt to raise it with existing support systems.

    I’d posit that most teenagers who end up pregnant have poor support systems already in place and are not getting the proper oversight and nurturance that they need to realize their full potential as women.

    The pro-choice movement’s inability to deal with these young women who typically come (or stereotypically) come from lower class backgrounds (somewhere the left has a problem going to), needs to be confronted. It is NOT acceptable to preach about wanting to end the oppression of women while ignoring a huge block of women who could, with some assistance, learn independence and responsibility. A 14 year old or a seventeen year old is far from a lost cause.

    My ideal would be setting up a network of available properties to be run as group homes similar to what are offered non-pregnant teens. Allowing a safe environment with part-time oversight, mandatory participation in education and work, using state and federal benefits for subsistence, along with private grants and donations.

    A group home consisting of possibly three or four young women with one or two part-time staff to oversee their progress I think would work. Requirements for school participation, college participation, work participation and life skills development would be mandatory.

    It is quite possible and I think could make a huge difference in many young women’s lives and also bring more women into the fold of feminism who could then influence others as well, including their children. The returns are great.

    I know a year or two of such transitional support and teaching would have changed the course of my young life dramatically.

  30. ceejay
    January 24, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    I have to agree with Dianne on this one – adoption is a *huge* ordeal for the birthmom to go through. Another good book to read about the unwed mothers’ homes is also “The Girls who Went Away”, though it deals with them in mid-1900s, not today.

    So many adoption agencies/pro-adoption “homes” are there to get babies to adoptive parents – the second that baby is signed over, the birthmom is no longer important and not worth helping.

    The biggest thing for me would be to have resources that don’t pressure the mom into having to give up her baby, and giving her the support to either take care of it or proper counseling if she does give it up. I think it would take some major re-vamping of the adoption process for this to happen all the time, though.

    And even if the non-judgmental, non-pressuring homes were actually that way, how much agency does a pregnant teenager have to go there, especially if she’s in a family situation that thinks she needs to be put in a home in the first place? Families like that will not be choosing anything that seems to be in favor of any reproductive rights…

  31. January 24, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    I strongly suggest that anyone interested in offering alternatives to pregnant teen-aged girls read The Girls Who Went Away, by Ann Fessler. It documents just what ‘choices’ teen-aged girls were given before abortion was an option. Unfortunately history is repeating itself with the girls of today. Without financial support and guidance with NO STRINGS ATTACHED, the girls of today have no more choice about keeping their babies than the girls of years gone by. Also, until a mother has lost a baby to adoption, she has NO way of knowing the heartbreak she will have to live with for the rest of her life nor the effects of growing up without her will have on her lost baby. Adoption is NOT a truly loving option for babies or their mothers!

  32. Bitter Scribe
    January 24, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    There used to be a home for unwed mothers in Wisconsin named—I swear I’m not making this up—“The Seven Sorrows of Our Sorrowful Mother.” Must have been a real fun place, huh?

  33. lizzie bee
    January 24, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    I don’t see why Planned Parenthood shouldn’t be able to cultivate better relations with local adoption agencies and homes. If they don’t have the resources to offer it themselves, then they should be able to at least refer someone on. Or have an adoption agency representative seconded to the office.

    Some of their larger offices do, Jess (PP Chicago, in particular, has a working relationship with The Cradle) but outposts in smaller areas often don’t have the option– if, for example, the limited number of adoption agencies or homes are either Evangelical or Catholic-run, and won’t associate with PP, or if the agencies are so overrun and underfunded that they can’t take any more referrals.

  34. jennie
    January 24, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    You guys know about Girl Mom right?

    These are the people we need to be listening to, if we’re going to discuss providing better options for young women. They’re doing it themselves, and they’re doing it very well indeed. If we want to support young mothers, making a variety of choices—abortion, adoption, motherhood—I think we need first to listen to their stories.

    Here’s what founder Allison Crews had to say about supporting young moms’ access to choice. It nicely sums up all people have been saying here:

    Young mothers need to be supported in their choices, whatever they may be. Whether they elect to abort a pregnancy, to place a child for adoption or to raise their children, resources to help them make these choices, and then cope with those choices, need to be readily available. Mothers must speak boldly and proudly of their choices, so that other women feel safe in making their own.

  35. Regina
    January 24, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    The problem is that these homes have a very long history of holding girls against their will, and of being used to ship off the shameful pregnant teenager.

    And of backing their “care” with pure missionary zeal. But there’s no a priori reason why those things have to define a girls’ home. I think one of the key aspects would be getting away from the whole “home for wayward girls” mindset, and to establish something more constructive– maybe a “home for girls in difficulty” aspect, or a “home for girls who have need of our services” aspect, since really these girls

    1) aren’t out-of-the-ordinary and don’t need treating like pariahs, and

    2) don’t need to be converted or talked down to, they need services that are rarely provided without attached missionary baggage.

  36. MuzakBox
    January 24, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    I have no idea how I am going to go about doing anything to found one of these homes. I have no experience in activism or fundraising or anything like that. However, there is NOTHING I would rather do with my life than work with young women who have become pregnant and help them out in anyway I can.

    I myself had an abortion. And as callous, heartless, bitchy, murderous, and whatever other terms I have been called, I feel no remorse for it. It wasn’t a struggle for me. I was recently struck by the man who made me pregnant and I was 19 and just moved back in with my mother after a year of drifting about. I have helped girlfriends make the decision to have an abortion and to not have an abortion.

    I also have a seven year old son. And there was nothing more I loved than being pregnant. It was a joyful and fullfilling experience for me. And giving birth naturally with a midwife was an experience I can only reccomend. As was breast feeding and sleeping with my baby.

    I just cannot tell you how helpful this discussion has been for me to inspire me. I have always been aware of pregnancy homes. There is a Catholic run one about two blocks from my childhood home. I had never thought before, gee, as a pro-choice feminist what do I think should be done for girls who make the choices to keep the baby or to give the baby up for adoption. But they need our support too. Not just the ones that need an abortion that the state is making harder and harder to obtain.

    Please, if you have an reccomendations for resources I’d appreciate it if you’d drop me a note. I’m thinking I’ll start by seeing what the local resources are for pregnant teens on all sides of the ideological spectrum and seeing what kind of grant money there is at the state level.

  37. January 24, 2007 at 11:39 pm

    Agreeing with “we pro-choicers need to help pregnant women too” would get you beaten up over at Feministing? Wow.

  38. SamChevre
    January 25, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    I don’t know whether they were pro-choice or not (although I’d certainly guess they were), but the Farm used to offer that any pregnant woman who wanted could come stay as long as she wanted, and either keep her baby or give it up for adoption of leave it with the community to care for with the option to come back. They quit when the increasing cost of OB care in cases of complication made it financially impossible.

    The story is in one of Ina Mae Gaskins’ books–I think “Spiritual Midwifery”, but it could be the other one whose title I can never remember.

  39. Luna
    January 25, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    Adoption is NOT a truly loving option for babies or their mothers!

    I take issue with this blanket statement. For some mothers it is definitely the right choice. And for many many babies it is a wonderful choice.

    I’m an adoptee. I met my birth mother when I was 22. She (and my birth father) found me. Not vice versa. Yes, it was hard for them to give me up, but they still regard it as the right choice. As do I. I had a fantastic life with my adoptive family (i.e. my real family). They’re wonderful people who wouldn’t have had a shot at raising children had I not been given up for adoption. And my birth mother will be the first to tell you that giving me up was the right thing for both of us. She knows that she could not have raised me properly, and that her life would have been a LOT different.

    She did not have a hugely supportive family. Her mother tried to adopt me (thank $deity that didn’t happen). Her father had already left. My father’s family was religious and all sorts of not impressed (though, I’ve met my paternal grandmother, and she now admits that it was the right choice too – she thought they should have raised me).

    I guess I’m saying, one experience is not every experience. Mine may be an exception, or not. Yours may be an exception, or not. The thing is, my birth mother made the choice, of her own free will. She wasn’t coerced, and she could live with the choice. Giving a baby up because one was coerced, well, I can see how much damage that would do. But I imagine being coerced into abortion would cause a lot of damage too.

    fwiw, I’m very much pro-choice. I do, however, wish we could lower the need for abortions.

  40. January 25, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    This article shows that at least one person on the right has a clue that “Early marriage can’t happen in a vacuum…”

    The writer’s politics may cause her to balk at unwed young mothers, but at least she understands that they need things like diapers and financial and emotional support.

  41. January 25, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    Agreeing with “we pro-choicers need to help pregnant women too” would get you beaten up over at Feministing? Wow.

    No no no, just to be clear, I don’t think that sentiment would get me beat up at Feministing. I suspect that 95% of the women who comment at Feministing, and all the women who write there, would agree.

    It’s just that in the context of the Feministing post, the pro-choice pregnancy home argument may not be taken particularly well. And understandably, since pregnancy homes don’t have a great feminist history.

  42. January 25, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    The writer’s politics may cause her to balk at unwed young mothers, but at least she understands that they need things like diapers and financial and emotional support

    Sort of… seemed more to me that her argument is that teenagers should get married young. And note where the support is coming from — church. That certainly doesn’t apply to everyone.

    She declares that late marriage is a response to an “unnatural” situation. But isn’t it marriage itself that’s unnatural? I mean, we created it, right? It’s not exactly part of the human condition, even if pair-bonding arguably is.

  43. bmc90
    January 26, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    Red, in a way the sentiments in the article are no different than those expressed in something like Walden II, a more secular expression of communalism and its happy effects on the ability to marry and bear children young. It’s just wildly unrealistic to think that most people can count on the charity of others to bankroll that venture. Maybe if your health holds up, you have a baby with no serious medical problems, you stay employed, and all this is true of the people in your support system, things could work out, but if all the kindness of third parties who owe you nothing (including parents once you are 18), you get 2 years of welfare, and I’d be pretty horrified for my child to be in that position. If you want to look at it from a more insidious perspecitve, if you have to rely on all these people, I guess you have to stay in their good graces as a person or you are done. If I were borrowing diaper money from my mom and dad, I’d puke.

  44. January 26, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    There are two such homes in Toronto (that I know of): Jessie’s Centre for Teenagers and the Massey Centre.

    It’s worth it to dig through their websites and see what they do, and what others who want to set up similar programs can learn from them. They’re both remarkable places.

  45. truth
    January 28, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    i am completely pro-choice

    that said, i think that many women choose abortions because of economics — they can’t support a child on their own or even with the help of a partner, friends, family etc

    barney frank said it best — for the anti choice crowd life begins at conception and ends at birth

    true choice means that if a woman wants to have a child, the financial support is there: her job is held, she has healthcare, there is daycare.

    without those things in place, choice is no choice at all

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